The Role of Sunscreen in Skin Protection: Why Sunscreen Is Essential?

Sunscreen is an essential skin care product that provides protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. With rising awareness about the dangers of excessive sun exposure and resulting conditions like sunburn, early aging, and skin cancer, the use of sunscreens has become more prevalent. Selecting an appropriate sunscreen and applying it correctly allows you to enjoy the sun safely.

This article will discuss what sunscreens are, how they work, factors to consider when choosing a sunscreen, proper application techniques, reasons for daily use, and frequently asked questions.

What Are Sunscreens?

Sunscreens contain active ingredients that absorb, reflect, or scatter UV radiation from the sun. They help prevent UV rays from reaching the skin.

There are two types:

Sunscreen In Skin Protection
  • Physical sunscreens contain minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which form a protective barrier on the skin surface, deflecting UV rays.
  • Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and convert them into heat energy before they can damage the skin. Common chemical filters include avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene.

Some sunscreens combine both physical and chemical active ingredients to provide broad-spectrum protection.

What Does The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) mean?

SPF indicates how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays that cause sunburn. SPF is measured by comparing the amount of UVB exposure required to cause sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin versus unprotected skin. For example, SPF 30 means it would take 30 times longer to burn wearing sunscreen than with no protection.

Higher SPF does not mean more protection in a linear fashion. SPF 15 filters 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 filters 97%, and SPF 50 filters 98%. Experts recommend using SPF 30 or higher for adequate protection. SPF only refers to UVB protection, so sunscreens must also provide UVA coverage labeled “broad spectrum.”

How To Select A Sunscreen?

Consider the following when choosing a sunscreen:

  • SPF 30 or higher: For extended outdoor activity, experts recommend SPF 30 to SPF 50 for adequate protection.
  • Broad spectrum: Ensure the sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays and is labeled “broad spectrum.”
  • Water resistance: If sweating or swimming, use a water-resistant sunscreen. It needs to be reapplied after 40-80 minutes in water.
  • Skin type: Creams are better for dry skin, while oily/combination skin benefits more from lotions or gels. Physical sunscreens suit sensitive skin.
  • Expiration dates: Check that your sunscreen is not past its expiration date, as it may lose efficacy.
  • Reapplication: No sunscreens are 100% effective, so reapplication is key every 2 hours.
  • Ingredients: If sensitive to any ingredients like oxybenzone, avoid those sunscreens.
  • Lifestyle factors: Consider your environment, planned activities, and sunlight exposure levels.

How To Apply Sunscreen?

👉Use 1 ounce (shot glass amount) to cover all exposed skin 15 minutes before going outdoors. That’s about 2 mg per cm2 of skin.

👉Apply evenly and thoroughly, rubbing it in well and avoiding missed patches. Pay extra attention to vulnerable areas like the face, ears, neck, tops of feet, and hands.

👉Reapply at least every 2 hours and immediately after swimming or sweating heavily. Reapply more often if participating in water sports or sweating excessively.

👉Apply lip balm and eye protection too. Seek shade whenever possible.

👉If using spray sunscreens, avoid inhaling them. Make sure to apply a thick even coating for adequate protection.

👉Check expiration dates and store sunscreen properly to retain efficacy. Discard sunscreens past their shelf life.

5 Important Reasons To Wear Sunscreen Daily

✅Prevent sunburn

Sunburns damage the skin and can increase skin cancer risk. Sunscreen is the best defense against painful sunburns.

✅Reduce premature aging

Up to 90% of visible skin aging is caused by the sun. UV exposure breaks down collagen and elastin leading to wrinkles, sagging skin, dark spots, and leathery skin. Daily broad-spectrum sunscreen preserves youthful skin.

✅Lower melanoma risk

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Regular sunscreen use lowers melanoma risk by 40-50% by protecting from dangerous UV damage linked to cancer development.

✅Prevent other skin cancers

Besides melanoma, UV rays can cause basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Sunscreen shields the skin and reduces the risk of these malignancies too.

✅Safeguard eye health

Sun exposure increases risks of cataracts, macular degeneration, and growths in the eye. Wraparound sunglasses and sunscreen around the eyes prevent UV damage to this delicate tissue.

Making sunscreen application a part of your morning routine is vital for maintaining healthy, youthful skin both today and in future decades. Daily SPF usage also minimizes the risk of developing potentially fatal skin cancers.


Regular sunscreen use is imperative to protect the skin from solar UV damage leading to accelerated aging, sunburns, and cancer. Choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and applying it correctly allows you to enjoy outdoor activities safely.

Reapplication every two hours, extra care around vulnerable areas, and wearing protective clothing and eyewear complement sunscreen usage. Making sunscreens a non-negotiable part of your skincare routine throughout life will pay dividends for your skin and health.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does sunscreen need to be applied on cloudy or cold days?

Yes, up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate clouds. UV exposure also occurs in winter at high altitudes.

2. Can sunscreen be used on babies?

Yes, but use a minimum SPF 30 sunscreen on babies over 6 months old and keep infants under 6 months out of direct sun.

3. How does sunscreen work on different skin tones?

Sunscreens work equally well on all skin tones when applied liberally at 2mg/cm2. Those with darker complexions still require sunscreen to prevent skin damage.

About the Author

Nicole Carter is a dedicated and passionate nutritionist, committed to helping individuals achieve their health and wellness goals through the power of proper nutrition. With a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and years of practical experience.

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